November 07.2018, 11.07am

5 reasons why the modern leader embraces innovation

Many leaders understand that their role today isn’t the same as their predecessors’ years ago. George Oliver, CEO of Johnson Controls, puts it best.

“I’ve recognised that whether it’s business cycles or technological advances, everything’s happening faster,” Oliver said to strategy+business, a publication owned by PricewaterhouseCoopers. “No matter where you sit as a CEO, you’ve got to be a technology, commercial and operational leader… The CEO today is much more multidimensional.”

Oliver’s theory can apply to anyone in a senior-level position. Handling the rocket-powered twists and turns of modern change isn’t easy; getting the entire business on board with transformation is even more difficult.

In its simplest guise, a leader who embraces innovation elevates their business and its employees by giving its people the tools and framework needed to succeed. It’s just a small part of the five reasons behind why corporate leadership is utilising the power of digital transformation within an enterprise.

1. Innovation breeds success

First and foremost: innovation is good for business. It’s a point that’s generally agreed on, with roughly 70 percent of senior-level respondents to a McKinsey & Company survey saying that it will be pivotal to success over the next half-decade.

Understandably, nearly two-thirds of participants don’t have a solid grasp on how to achieve those results. If we all knew the secret formula then it wouldn’t be much of a difference maker.

But an overwhelming 94 percent believe that there are two core components at the heart of positive innovation: people and culture. Building a strategy that’s geared to impact those two factors is key to producing a positive outcome, and HR leaders are best positioned to drive that change.

HR technologies like talent management solutions are paving the way for more inclusive workforces. By forging strong bonds between upper management and all levels of staff, businesses are better positioned to obtain lofty objectives and improve market position.

2. Innovation fosters collaboration

Digital disruption largely centres on breaking down the barriers to high performance. In doing so, leaders are able to grow revenue and elevate the business’ brand.

Employees expect to be able to seamlessly work with one another and often, technology is the driver of enhanced collaboration. But no two solutions are the same and identifying exactly where the greatest disconnect between departments lies is pivotal to understanding which new feature or addition will have the greatest impact.

It’s one of the reasons why many leaders are incorporating HR technologies like employee engagement platforms, which provide a centralised hub for people and teams to connect. These are non-specific solutions that encourage positive interaction across the business, rather than isolated technologies only used for specific tasks within certain departments.

By integrating this type of tool, leaders foster a sense of teamwork and a healthy competitive drive towards a goal by introducing accountability in an innovative and constructive environment.

3. Innovation leads to data-backed insights

We’ve all heard the phrase before: data is the new oil. But data isn’t actually anything new on its own – we’ve been generating and collecting it for decades. Without some way to refine it, it’s more like crude oil; still valuable, but far from its potential.

Leaders who embrace innovation are able to draw actionable insights that push the business forward in the right direction. Intuitive technologies make it easy to pull information from all corners of the business to better understand where inefficiencies lie, why certain projects are delayed or how to get the most out of top performers at the company.

In using analytic tools, HR leaders see their duties shift from being solely focused on hiring and retention to becoming a key source of knowledge for mid-level managers on how to get the most out of their teams. This ultimately builds a more modern culture as an emphasis is placed on the people, rather than their positions in the company.

4. Innovation reinvents and improves strategies

Manual processes, legacy products and static policies create frustration for lower- and mid-level employees, as well as senior-level executives. Figuring out a way to reinvent them can benefit the business from the top down.

Recognising the factors that bog down daily operations is the first step in figuring out a solution – which in turn will make the routine much easier. At the end of the day, work should be engaging, and it’s up to leaders across the business to discover solutions that cater to that.

At a high level, innovation should seek to streamline internal operations and expand customer-facing services or products. Innovation should breed speed and agility in all departments, which is a key trait of successful organisations in the digital era.

5. Innovation puts your business ahead of the competition

It doesn’t matter which industry your company is in: competition is always fierce. The fight for high-performing talent, key contracts and a hold on the market never get easier, but enterprises are finding ways to give themselves breathing room from those unwilling to deviate from the norm.

Managing risk plays an important role in leadership, and it’s why so many in HR now embrace innovation. It’s clear to see that challenges may lay ahead – intuitive CEOs are determined to figure out the answers before the obstacles impede their business’ progress.

Alistair BrownBy Alistair Brown